Don Gleason’s Camping Supply in Northampton to close

  • Don Gleason's Camping Supply store in Northampton will soon close. —GAZETTE STAFF/Kevin Gutting

  • Don Gleason's Camping Supply store in Northampton will soon close. —GAZETTE STAFF/Kevin Gutting

  • John Gleason at his family’s store, Don Gleason’s Camping Supply at 9 Pearl St. in Northampton, on Wednesday. Gleason is closing his storefront, but will maintain a mail-order business. GAZETTE STAFF/Amanda Drane

Published: 12/7/2016 9:01:32 AM

NORTHAMPTON — A long-running city institution, Don Gleason’s Camping Supply, is closing its storefront after nearly 60 years in business.

Owner John Gleason said the mail-order side of the family business will remain in operation, however. The decision to close the store at 9 Pearl St. was based on his desire to retire after 58 years working in the camping supply store. He said he wants to make time for a camping trip with no end date.

“It’s time,” Gleason, 68, said. “I hope in the next 10 years or so I get to do a lot of camping.”

Everything in the store is on sale, starting at 10 percent off. He said all items must go by the time the shop closes, likely in early January.

“I don’t have a closet big enough at home to store all this in,” he said, gesturing at all the items remaining on shelves.

He said nothing forced his hand, but rather sales have been down for years and it did not seem worth the effort to keep the store operating.

“All year we were looking at business and hoping things would turn around,” he said. “The middle class has been pinched for money since the ’90s, and we felt that.”

Still, he said, companies like Amazon can’t compete with the small family business, explaining that the corporate retail giant focuses more on the glamorous camping items and not the “nitty-gritty” necessities. Among his favorite items at the store are pie irons for fireside sandwich-making.

Gleason said his business’s website is getting an overhaul to bolster the online side of the business.

Camping and exploring new places, he said, is something he’s always been passionate about.

“It’s a tremendous way to see this country,” he said.

Gleason said his family opened the store in 1958. His father, a World War II veteran, “saw it as a way to have a better life for his children,” he said.

“The store was a way to expand for the family,” he said. “We all had to work together.”

He said the family trust, Heldon Realty — owned by John Gleason and his siblings Dan Gleason, Patrick “Terry” Gleason, Gwendolyn Gleason and Tony Gleason — owns the property, which will likely be up for rent after the closing.

“I think we all agree we’re not going to let it sit and fall down,” he said. “It has to stay viable.”

Though the core of the building was erected in the 1860s, he said his grandfather later built the bulk of it in the 1920s. Since the first Gleason family members arrived in the city in the 1840s, John Gleason said, the family’s businesses have moved with the times.

He said his grandfather helped build the dikes that protect the city from the Connecticut River, and just after Prohibition ended, the family added a beer distribution business to their construction, moving and rigging operations.

Then, when the city’s young drinking population shipped off to World War II, so went the market — and so went the beer distribution business.

“As time evolves, things have to change,” he said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at

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